Friday, November 14, 2008

A mirror

The memories of my early childhood are like sparse crayon sketches...

A small house on the edge of town with a smattering of homes around us. Enough space to find a spot to play that was out of the periphery of the house.

A baby in a rickety crib: cranky or sleeping, cranky and sleeping. My mother's faceless voice hollering after me (from where? in the kitchen? probably. She was always in the kitchen) to "shut the door- you'll let out all the cool air" the baby needs to be in cool air... was the unuttered half of the sentence.

Books scattered about: Mom tells me I could read by the time I was three. I don't remember reading but I do remember sitting in my mother's lap and pouring over the pages. Books always left open on the floor of my room.

Clinging to the neck of my grandmother: her house, the yard and farm, the conversation a later memory that seeps into the younger me- a water color background that fills in the blank skies and ground beneath me.

One water-color landscape: A rattle trap wagon clattering through the grassy backyard that connects one child to the other. A blue-eyed, brown-sugar-haired child waves at the face peaking between the cotton curtain of the nearby home. Chubby fingers waggle back and forth in response and little legs dangle over the edge of the counter, toes in search of the tile floor. The child seeks out her mother, begging for freedom and play. Denied for some reason that is beyond the connections in my synapses, the lingering feeling is one of disapproval (disapproval of the child's mother? the child?- I don't know...) and confusion. Christie is my only friend in my secluded little world between the houses and it seems odd now to have had anything to disapprove of in a three-year-old.

Photographs scrutinized now reveal the shy and backward nature of the child- a slight frown still lingering in the eyes, unhappy, with the break from play for a trip to the photographer, the uncomfortable frilly dress complete with lacy undies that were GI (well in this case: MI- mother issue). Battles over clothes with the tot are retold at the dinner table by the mother, the grandmother. They are, apparently, World War II vets in the American Legion, reminiscing over the skirmishes with the child over clothes, food, separation... (tisk, tisk, such a strong willed child. How will such a strong willed child be obedient to God?)

Happiness... abandon... freedom... does not seem to be a part of the sketches, either filled in later or original background. You can feel the uncertainty, the blankness- a hollowness that was never filled in.


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